Sunday, July 22, 2007

Playing Queen Dragonfly in My Own Little Realm

This is going to be one of those self-indulgent posts that's more about keeping a record of what I have (or haven't accomplished) than about supplying edifying content for the Houseblogs community at large.

When we last saw our heroine early on the morning of the 19th, she was whingeing about the failure of a certain paint stripper to deliver on its promises-- or about her own inability to take advantage of its glorious potential.

Well. Later that day, I called a friend who took down and refinished all the wood trim in his house. How easy is that, I wondered, vs. doing it in situ?

Oh, much easier. And if you crack it, you can just kind of nail or glue it back together. If it isn't too badly cracked, that is.

Oh. Right.

So I made one little experiment into taking the trim down, the first since I tried it a year or two ago and ended up with a grievous crack in one piece. I think you'll agree that this casing, at least, needs to be taken down and reerected anyway. It's crooked, and there's a gap between the trim and the wall that's as wide as an quarter inch in some places. All filled with spackle or some other rock-hard goop.

It's got something to do with the front room and its conversion from a front porch. I'm not sure when or how this was done, but it wasn't the neatest job in the world.

So I took down one piece. One. And hammered out the nails. Then a friend came by and that was that.

Until later that evening, like, after midnight, when I finished removing the stinky old beige carpet from the first floor-second floor stairs. In time for Friday morning trash pickup, again.

I rather like this little detail on the bottom tread; so simple and elegant, the way it curves into the newell post.But alas, the edge of the curve is a butchered mess. I wish I'd counted how many staples it had in it. Little copper staples from the green plush carpet laid by the POs-1. Big steel staples from the beige berber carpet the POs put down. Staples, staples; staples on top of staples. It was a staple convention, a staple infestation! I was using a hooked dental pick to pull them out, and constantly rammed my knuckles on the hallway floor every time another vicious bit of pointed wire came away. You know how people simper about not cussing around the clergy? I must have tramatized my sanctified ears sadly, with all the cussing I was doing around my reverend self--Lord help me!

And Lord help this stair tread. I know I'll have plenty of use for wood filler here and there as I de-beige this house, but this piece will call for genuine wood filler artistry.

Friday proper was devoted to the lawn and garden. Nothing exciting, just mowing, mulching, weed-pulling, herbicide-painting on the spurge in the cobblestone path of the vegetable garden; that sort of thing.

Saturday, ah, yes, Saturday, I tackled the back porch. My POs used it as a lovely social space, with a glass-topped table and cushioned chairs and all the rest of it. Me, I've let it degenerate into a dumping ground:

It took all day and into the night to bring it to this:

No, that is not my idea of a great furniture arrange-ment. What you see there with the Adirondack furniture is another Project. Those pieces all need scraped, primed, and painted. I even have the paint. Now I have the room to do it. Let the games begin.

The hilarious thing is that now that the porch looks halfway nice (for the first time in almost three years), I keep going out there with the vacuum cleaner to keep it that way.

Don't worry. I'll get over it.

Tomorrow I'm off to Athens, New York, for the three-day lime plaster restoration workshop at Howard Hall Farm. I'll try to report on it when I get back.

(I'm not averse to doing it while the seminar's in progress, but out of the three laptops I own, not one is capable of a reliable hookup to the Internet. At least, I don't think so . . . )

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Melluva Hess

When I was in architecture school, I was madly in love with a fellow-student three years ahead of me. One of the things I admired about-- I'll call him "Dave"--was the masterly way he asserted that if something misfunctioned on him, it was due to its poor design.

This was a revelation pour petite moi. When I couldn't get something to work, I'd always assumed it was because I was a klutz or just doing something wrong.

That was years ago. But even now, I'm wondering if I or my erstwhile love interest would be right about a product I'm struggling with even as I write.

To-wit, a certain green-colored paint stripper. I won't honor or defame it by publishing its name; the cognescenti know to what I refer. It's supposed to take up to seven layers of paint off in one fell swoop. That green stuff.

I used the first third or so of the container a good two years or so ago. Didn't have much luck with it; it took off the top layer and a little of the second, but nothing more.

Came back to the task yesterday (Tuesday afternoon). The container was tightly-sealed; the product looked and smelled all right (considering it's paint stripper): all it needed was to be stirred up a bit. Thought to myself, maybe I hadn't laid it on thick enough last time. So this time, I slathered it on, on one small window casing and on the doorway casing I could reach from the same ladder position.
The directions say you're supposed to wait till the stripper turns off-white or pale green, four to twenty-four hours from application. And some of it did. But a lot of it remained acid green.

I figured it was the humidity. So I waited some more. And a bit more. Then more than a bit more.

And I probably waited it right past its usefulness. Because when I went to scrape it off, this is what I got:
Not exactly the results described on the label.

So what's the problem? Is it the product-- or is it me?

Maybe both "Dave" and I would be right in this case. Maybe the green stuff does work, for those well-regulated souls who can catch it at the right point. But after awhile I lose interest in watching paint stripper dry. And what with spending time on paid work, and having a meeting to attend in the next county, then (gulp!) frittering away too much time looking at lolcats on the Internet, the optimum time passed, and I'm left with a stringy mess.

So it looks like it's back to the stinky Strip-Eez for me. Slap on a bit, wait ten minutes, scrape it off, slap on the next bit, wait ten minutes, and so on. I might actually make some progress for a change.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


A couple weeks (okay, a month) ago when I first pulled the smelly carpet off my second floor hall, I commented on the ludicrous slope the floor had assumed.

Going by the gaps between the floorboards and the bottom of the wood base, I thought the low point was at the outside wall.
But I fetched one of my cat's old golf balls, just to check, and what do ya know:

I'll still need to fiddle around with shoe mouldings or lower the baseboard or something to make up the difference. But somehow knowing what I'm actually working with makes me feel a little more competent about it, like I know what I'm doing.

No, actually, what it makes me do is, it makes me wonder how the blinking baseboard ended up levitating like that in the first place.

Meanwhile, this past Thursday night I got more stairway carpet, pad, and tackstrip off, handily in time for trash pickup early Friday morning. (Don't you admire the way some PO painted the risers up to the stair runner on either side?)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Hometown Pride

I won't be making any house posts for awhile. This week I'm back in my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, to participate in a concert of the transcontinental Welsh choir I've belonged to since 1999.

That comes off this Saturday, and I fly home to Pennsylvania this coming Monday. But already I'm wishing I could have stayed at least another week, if not two.

No, it's not homesickness, exactly. But there is a strong element of pride. I simply cannot believe all the changes that have happened here in the past four years! The amount of new construction is prodigious. And from just driving past it on the street, most of it looks very impressive. It would take days, if not weeks, to take it all in!

One of the most famous-- or notorious-- new erections is the new Bloch exhibit building on the grounds of the Nelson Gallery of Art. I dunno about it. People say the interior is sublime. But judging from photographs and ordinary people's comments, the outside looks like a bloody warehouse.

I'm hanging fire till I can visit Sunday afternoon. I reserve hope that it won't be as bad as people say, but I'm afraid it will.

Meanwhile, I comfort myself by getting where I need to go by way of the miles and miles of Kansas City's beautiful 115-year-old boulevard system, taking in parks, fountains, artwork, and lovely residential districts along the way. Thank you, St. George Kessler. Many communities took advantage of your eye and expertise; why did no one in Pixburgh ever think to do the same?